Eye on Hate: False reports of hate crime fuel anti-Muslim sentiment
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Eye on Hate: False reports of hate crime fuel anti-Muslim sentiment

Even before today's police announcement, right-wing extremists were quick to accuse the 11-year-old of lying.

The 11-year-old girl who reported the false incident to police is a student at Pauline Johnson Junior Public School in Scarborough.

Last week, an 11-year-old girl reported that a man tried to cut off her hijab with scissors while she was on her way to school in Scarborough. News outlets rushed to cover the story, and politicians of every stripe put out statements condemning the alleged attack. The police announced they would investigate the incident as a hate crime.

The stories also prompted a slew of racist and Islamophobic comments on social media. Right-wing extremists claimed the attack was a hoax or “false flag attack” perpetrated by the Muslim community, the Liberal government, and the media, in service of a pro-Islam agenda.

After an investigation over the weekend, the police reported today that the attack never happened.

Following initial reports, commenters on social media questioned details of the attack and the ethnicity of the alleged perpetrator, who was described as Asian. But the basis for many of these accusations was that the 11-year-old girl who reported the incident is a Muslim: “Taqiyya is the Islamic doctrine that allows Muslims to lie to non-Muslims,” wrote one commenter. “So can we trust what any Muslim says?” Similar sentiments proliferated online, as the screenshot below shows: [Content Warning: Racism]

As Mississauga imam Ibrahim Hindy and community spokesperson Amira Elghawaby point out, this is a terrible situation for everybody involved.

In a statement released by the National Council of Canadian Muslims, executive director Ihsaan Gardee said, “While we are relieved that this child was not a victim of a hate crime, the false nature of the claim is unsettling and points to the need for greater education about the seriousness of making false or inaccurate reports to the police, as such reports will not only affect the person making them, but may also affect persons who are in fact targeted by Islamophobic and hateful acts.

“At this time, we reiterate our support for the investigative process of law enforcement, and we are pleased to note that police investigated this claim swiftly and seriously.  This is particularly important in light of the heightened anxieties being felt within many Muslim communities in the lead up to the first anniversary of the Quebec mosque massacre, where six worshippers were killed and many injured during evening prayers,” said Gardee.

While we can all be thankful a young girl wasn’t attacked, this false accusation is a blow to the Muslim community. It’s reasonable to expect the far-right to use this example to try to smear and discredit real victims of hate crimes in the future.

In a Facebook post, Bernie Farber, former head of the Mosaic Institute and the Canadian Jewish Congress, wrote: “She was an 11 year old girl who told a lie. Demonizing her and claiming this is some sort of Muslim agenda thing is way too reminiscent of how Jews were treated (some would say still are) in the past. The anger and vitriol I am reading on social media is absurd. Sadly similar situations have occurred with other communities including my own.

“Let us all try to be adults and acknowledge that sadly children will lie and tell fibs,” said Farber. “To cast aspersions on an entire community of Muslims as a result of this incident is a true example of Islamophobia.”

In a comment on Farber’s post, one person replied: “I think she was offered money to create this lie by her mosque . . . she is just a good muslim acting out her beliefs.” A far-right organizer in Toronto is preparing to do a livestream on the topic, “No more Muslim lies.”

At this time, we would all do well to remember that Islamophobic hate crimes are real and it’s the responsibility of the media and the police to believe victims and report on and investigate serious allegations like hate crimes and sexual assault.

Now that we know it didn’t happen, right-wing media in the U.S. are picking up the story.


In other news:

>> Anti-Muslim Youtuber visits Myanmar

Mississauga YouTuber Kevin J. Johnston, who is currently facing hate speech charges for his often Islamophobic and transphobic videos, is in Myanmar. The United Nations human rights chief has called the situation in Myanmar “a textbook example of ethnic cleansing.” The Rohingya Muslim population of Myanmar have been systematically displaced or murdered and and more than 610,000 Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh. Real journalists have been barred from entering the country and two Reuters journalists are currently being held in prison. Johnston says he’s there to report on the “Rohingya lie.”


>> PEGIDA plans rally

Anti-Muslim group PEGIDA (Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the West) is planning a January 27 rally at Nathan Phillips Square. They held a rally in London last weekend, and were outnumbered three to one by anti-fascist demonstrators according to Anti-Racist Canada. PEGIDA gets a lot of attention, but they don’t have much organizing capacity. Only 14 people are RSVP’d on Facebook.


>> Storefronts repeatedly vandalized in Bloorcourt

Two storefronts on Bloor were vandalized with a hammer and feces on January 7. This is only the most recent incident in a series of repeated vandalizations going back to November 2016. In the past, one of the stores has also been targeted with anti-Semitic graffiti. The owners say the vandalization isn’t random.


>> Anti-Muslim heckler targets Trudeau

CBC reports that Trudeau was heckled at a town hall in London. The blog Anti-Racist Canada points out that the heckler is an anti-Muslim organizer.

DISCLOSURE: The author does anti-racism work with Bernie Farber and Amira Elghawaby, who are quoted in this column.